Blue marlin See also: Atlantic blue marlin are possibly the most sought-after marlin species. Beautiful in form, capable of spectacular fighting ability and having the potential to reach great sizes



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Blue marlin

See also: Atlantic blue marlin

Blue marlin are possibly the most sought-after marlin species. Beautiful in form, capable of spectacular fighting ability and having the potential to reach great sizes, blue marlin have inspired and continue to inspire the dedicated pursuit of thousands of skippers, crews and anglers.



Distribution





Atlantic blue marlin

Blue marlin are inhabitants of tropical oceanic waters worldwide, occurring both in the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific. Spawning is carried out in tropical waters and many individuals probably remain in tropical waters year round. However, significant seasonal migrations are made into the temperate waters of the northern and southern hemispheres to take advantage of feeding opportunities as northern and southern waters warm in spring and summer. Although blue marlin have the ability to thermoregulate, the lower limit of their temperature tolerance is thought to be in the region of approximately 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) although individual fish have been caught in cooler temperatures. Warm currents such as the Gulf Stream in the western Atlantic and the Agulhas Current in the western Indian Ocean serve as oceanic highways for blue marlin migration and have a major influence on their seasonal distribution. Larger individuals have the greatest temperature tolerance, and blue marlin encountered at the limits of their range tend to be large fish.

In the western Atlantic blue marlin can be seasonally found as far north as George's Bank and the continental shelf canyons off Cape Cod, influenced by the warm current of the Gulf Stream, and as far south as southern Brazil; in the eastern Atlantic their seasonal range extends northward to the Algarve coast of Portugal and southward to the southern coast of Angola. Some blue marlin are found at the southernmost tip of the continent, though whether they are Atlantic stock or Pacific stock is debatable, especially since an individual fish tagged in the western Atlantic was re-caught in the Indian Ocean off the island of Mauritius. Vagrant individuals have been taken by rod and reel as far north as Biscay (2005) and there have been claims of commercial captures as far north as south-west Ireland.

In the Pacific, blue marlin are seasonally found as far north as southern Japan and as far south as the Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand. Blue marlin in the eastern Pacific migrate as far north as Southern California and as far south as northern Peru. The southern limit of their distribution in the eastern Indian Ocean appears to be the waters of Albany and Perth in Western Australia, and in the western Indian Ocean blue marlin have been taken as far south as Cape Town.

Blue marlin have been found in the open ocean in thousands of fathoms of water, thousands of miles from land; however, they concentrate in their greatest numbers in areas where bottom structure (islands, seamounts, banks, and the edge of the continental shelf) create upwelling that brings deep nutrient-rich water close to the surface, sparking off plankton blooms that result in a food chain that ends in large marine predators such as dolphins, whales, large tuna and billfish. In temperate waters, the interaction of warm currents with these bottom structures is critical in setting up suitable environmental conditions for blue marlin and other warmwater gamefish. Temperature breaks created where bodies of warm and cool water are pushed up against each other also act as a less tangible form of structure which attracts bait and gamefish, including blue marlin.

Spawning locations are believed to include the islands of the Caribbean in the western Atlantic, the Gulf of Guinea in the eastern Atlantic, Hawaii, and Mauritius.



[edit] Genetic structure

Scientists distinguish between two species of blue marlin, the Atlantic blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) and the Pacific blue marlin (Makaira mazara). Genetic studies have shown that the p-phenotype is prevalent in both oceans, whereas the a-phenotype has not been recorded in the Indian or Pacific oceans; hence a large percentage of blue marlin found in the Atlantic are actually the same genetically as Pacific blue marlin.



[edit] Age

The oldest known blue marlin is the 1656 lb Blue marlin caught by the sportfishing vessel Black Bart in 1984 and aged by biologists at 32 years.



[edit] Size



The crest of Bimini in the Bahamas showing a blue marlin

Blue marlin are sexually dimorphic: adult males seldom exceed 150 kg (300 lb) whereas females may reach far larger sizes well in excess of 450 kg (1,000 lb).

The maximum size of blue (and black) marlin is often debated in both sport fishing and scientific circles. The largest sport fishing capture on record is a 1,805 lb Pacific blue marlin caught by a party of anglers in Oahu, Hawaii aboard the charter boat Coreene C skippered by Capt. Cornelius Choy (this fish often referred to as 'Choy's Monster'). This fish was found to have a yellowfin tuna of over 155 lbs in weight in its belly. In the Atlantic the heaviest sport fishing capture is Paulo Amorim's 1,402 lb fish from Vitoria, Brazil.

Commercial fishermen have boated far larger specimens. The largest blue marlin brought into Tsukiji market in Tokyo supposedly weighed a massive 1,106 kg. A number of very large fish have been reported over the years, including a couple of photographs originating from Okinawa in southern Japan and Vanuatu. Commercial and sport fishermen from many other areas, both Pacific and Atlantic, have reported encounters with, and in some instances captures, of marlin thought to be in excess of 2,000 lbs, but obtaining verified weights and dimensions has proved very difficult.

A 1,000 lb (450 kg) fish, a "grander", has historically been regarded by blue and black marlin anglers as the benchmark for a truly outstanding catch. For most marlin anglers, a 1,000 lb fish represents the fish of a lifetime. Because of ever-increasing commercial fishing effort across the world's oceans, it seems unlikely that sport fishermen will ever break the "tonner" (2,000 lb) mark.



[edit] Diet

Blue marlin are eclectic feeders preying on a wide range of prey species and sizes. Scientific examination of blue marlin stomach contents has yielded organisms as small as miniature filefish. Common food items include tuna-like fishes, particularly skipjack tuna and frigate mackerel (also known as frigate tuna), squid, mackerel, and scad.

Of more interest to sport fishermen is the upper range of blue marlin prey size. A 72-inch white marlin has been recorded as being found in the stomach of a 448 lb blue marlin caught at Walker's Cay in the Bahamas, and more recently, during the 2005 White Marlin Open a white marlin in the 70 lb class was found in the stomach of one of the money-winning blues. Shortbill spearfish of 30 to 40 lb have been recorded as feed items by Kona blue marlin fishermen. Yellowfin tuna of 100 lb or more have also been found in the stomachs of large blue marlin.

[edit] Fishing techniques

Fishing styles and gear used in the pursuit of blue marlin vary, depending on the size of blue marlin common to the area, the size of fish being targeted, local sea conditions, and often local tradition. The main methods use artificial lures, rigged natural baits, or live bait.



[edit] Artificial lure fishing

Blue marlin are aggressive fish that respond well to the splash, bubble trail and action of a well presented artificial lure.

Probably the most popular technique used by blue marlin crews worldwide, artificial lure fishing has spread from its Hawaiian origins. The earliest marlin lures were carved from wood, cast in drink glasses, or made from chrome bath towel pipes and skirted with rubber inner tubes or vinyl upholstery material cut into strips. Today, marlin lures are produced in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours, mass-produced by large manufacturers and individually crafted by small-scale custom makers.

A typical marlin lure is a small (7-8 inch), medium (10-12 inch) to large (14 inches or more) artificial with a shaped plastic or metal head to which a plastic skirt is attached. The design of the lure head, particularly its face, gives the lure its individual action when trolled through the water. Lure actions range from an active side-to-side swimming pattern to pushing water aggressively on the surface to, most commonly, tracking along in a straight line with a regular surface pop and bubble trail. Besides the shape, weight and size of the lure head, the length and thickness of skirting, the number and size of hooks and the length and size of the leader used in lure rigging all influence the action of the lure: how actively it will run and how it will respond to different sea conditions. Experienced anglers can fine tune their lures to get the action they want.

Lures are normally fished at speeds of between 7.5 to 9 knots; faster speeds in the 10 to 15 knot range are less frequently used, primarily by boats with slower cruising speeds travelling from spot to spot. These speeds allow quite substantial areas to be effectively worked in a day's fishing. A pattern of four or more lures is trolled at varying distances behind the boat. Lures may be fished either straight from the rod tip ("flat lines"), or from outriggers.

[edit] Natural bait fishing

Rigged natural baits have been used by sport fishermen seeking blue marlin since the 1930s and are still popular. Along the eastern seaboard of the United States and in the Bahamas and Caribbean, rigged Spanish mackerel and horse ballyhoo are widely used for Atlantic blue marlin.

Rigged natural baits are sometimes combined with an artificial lure or skirt to make "skirted baits" or "bait/lure combinations".

[edit] Live bait fishing

Live bait fishing for blue marlin normally uses small tuna species with skipjack generally considered the best choice. As trolling speed is limited by the fact that baits must be trolled slowly to remain alive, live-baiting is normally chosen where fishing areas are relatively small and easily covered. Much live-baiting in the blue marlin fishery of Kona, Hawaii, for instance, takes place near FAD (Fish Aggregation Device) buoys and in the vicinity of steep underwater ledges.



[edit] Angling destinations

The Atlantic

Blue marlin have been caught by sport fishermen in the Atlantic from as early as the 1930s, when sport anglers from Florida began to explore the Bahamas and Cuba. Authors such as Ernest Hemingway and S. Kip Farrington did much to attract the attention of big-game anglers to the Bahamian islands of Bimini and Cat Cay. After the Second World War, and especially from the 1960s onwards, anglers began pursuing and finding blue marlin in destinations all over the tropical and subtropical Atlantic.

Bahamas


The Bahama Islands have long been popular destinations for fishermen seeking blue marlin. Bimini, located at the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, has the longest history of blue marlin fishing in the islands, dating back to anglers such as Michael Lerner, Ernest Hemingway and S. Kip Farrington, who fished there in the 1930s and 1940s. Try dropping anchor at the tip end of North Bimini known as Moselle Shoal, or just off Bimini Bay's Three Sisters Rock. Another hot spot is Great Isaac Rock, located fifteen (15) miles north for a good place in Bimini to fish.

From the 1960s, more outlying areas such as Walker's Cay and the Abaco islands have developed as blue marlin grounds.

The Bahamas is home to one of the most intensely competitive tournament series in marlin fishing, the Bahamas Billfish Championship.

Bermuda


The banks lying off the hook-shaped island of Bermuda consistently produce blue marlin. Many Bermudian fish are small specimens in the 150 to 250 lb class but every year much bigger fish in the 600 lb and larger class are caught. A 1,352 lb giant boated aboard the MAKO IV, skippered by Captain Allen deSilva, in 1995 stands as the largest blue marlin caught in Bermudian waters. This fish is also one of the largest blue marlin ever boated in the Atlantic.

A series of tournaments attracts many top-notch boats and crews from the United States every summer. Visiting boats and crews join a small but well-equipped and experienced fleet of charter vessels.

Brazil

Blue marlin are fished by sportfishermen operating from several locations along the Atlantic coast of Brazil. Blue marlin have been encountered as far south as Sao Paulo, and are regularly hooked and caught in annual tournaments held offshore of Rio de Janeiro. However the majority of international attention has thus far focused on Canavieras, the gateway to the Royal Charlotte Bank, an extensive area of bottom structure that holds billfish, tuna and other pelagics in great numbers; and on Cabo Frio where an annual tournament has produced several fish weighing in excess of 1,000 lbs.



The city of Vitória is considered the world capital of Blue marlin fishing by many anglers[who?] but difficulty in travelling there limits access. Fishing is a popular activity in Vitória, and sport fishing has become more popular in Vitória each day,[citation needed] attracting fishermen from other states and countries due to the large population of marlin and Sailfish off the coast of Espirito Santo. Largest of the many big blue marlin caught at Vitória is the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) all-tackle record for Atlantic blue marlin, held by Paulo Amorim, who caught a Blue marlin that weighed 636 kg (1,402 lb). Larger Blue marlin have been caught in Hawaii (1656 lb and 1800 lb+), but these fish were not captured according to the guidelines of the IGFA.

Cape Verde Islands

This cluster of islands in the eastern tropical Atlantic has proved to be an outstanding blue marlin fishery since it was first seriously fished in the 1980s. Blue marlin may be caught year-round in Cape Verde waters but the very best fishing seems to take place between March and May when large numbers of blue marlin concentrate in island waters. Blues encountered off Cape Verde range widely in size with many fish of 100 to 350 lb and good numbers of larger fish in the 400 to 600+ lb class. The biggest catch from Cape Verde waters is a 1241 lb caught in September 2006 near the island of Saint Vincent by angler Barry Silleman fishing with skipper Berno Niebuhr. Incidental catches include Wahoo and large Yellowfin tuna.

Portugal


Although blue marlin are being caught in increasing numbers on the Algarve coast of Portugal, the main centres of blue marlin fishing in Portugal are the oceanic islands of the Azores and Madeira.

The Azores

The small port of Horta on Fayal island is synonymous with blue marlin fishing in the nine-island chain of the Azores. The season normally begins in late June or early July and continues until weather conditions put an end to the fishery in mid to late October. Weather conditions can be unpredictable at the tail-end of the season but in midsummer when the area is dominated by the Azores high the seas can be very flat.

Although blue marlin can be found close to Fayal island, boats seeking blue marlin often select three banks that serve as productive feeding locations for these fish. The Azores sits in the northern extreme of blue marlin distribution and the fishery is dominated by large fish. 400 to 600 lb fish are average here and every year fish of 1000 lb and above are encountered. The Azores is home to Atlantic blue marlin records for, amongst others, IGFA 50 lb and 80 lb line classes.

Madeira

Between April and October every year some of the biggest blue marlin in the Atlantic appear off this tiny Portuguese island 360 miles west of the coast of Morocco.

Big game fishing has taken place in Madeiran waters from as early as the early 1970s. A number of large blue marlin were caught during the 1980s, but the focus for most visiting anglers tended to be sharks and the prolific schools of bigeye tuna.

During 1992 to 1996 Madeira was the scene of some incredible fishing for giant blue marlin, bringing the island to the attention of marlin fishermen worldwide.[citation needed] In 1994 alone eight fish of over 1,000 lb were weighed in.

Between 1997 and 2000 blue marlin fishing in Madeira, along with the other Atlantic islands, underwent a severe downturn, blamed by many[who?] on the strong El Niño event of 1996–1997. However, from 2001 onwards conditions began to improve and the seasons of 2005 and 2006 have seen Madeira return to some of its former glory. June to July appear to be the premier months for blue marlin fishing. The small fleet of charter boats operate out of the small marina in the island's largest town, Funchal.

The most popular fishing grounds are situated on the south coast of the island, sheltered by the high cliffs from the prevailing northeast trade winds. Fishing generally takes place within a few miles of the island and many great fish are caught well within two miles of the shoreline. Lure fishing is the most successful method with a wide variety of medium to large artificials from various sources being successful.

Spain

Canary Islands (Islas Canarias)

Although a number of blue marlin have been brought into ports along the Atlantic coast of mainland Spain, the subtropical archipelago of the Canary Islands is by far the most prolific blue marlin grounds in Spain.

Blue marlin appear seasonally in the Canary Islands between May and October with some individuals having been caught earlier and later in the year.

Sport fishing boats may be chartered from the main islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and Tenerife; from the smaller islands of Graciosa and La Gomera; and from Puerto Rico on the island of Gran Canaria, which boasts the largest fleet of charter boats in the Canaries.

The average size of blue marlin encountered in the Canaries tends to be large, in the 400 to 600+ lb class, including some very large fish upwards of 800 lb. Smaller fish in the 200 to 350 lb class also make an appearance at times. In particular, the island of La Gomera is abundant with bait fish and tuna, and Blue Marlin in excess of 1200 lbs have been caught there.

Mexico


In the spring, sportfishing boats from the U.S. head down in droves. Spring brings the annual Marlin migration. Marlin on the west coast tend to be larger than the east coast.[citation needed]

Baja California

Baja California has long been known for its fertile waters both on the Pacific side and the Sea of Cortez. Cabo San Lucas is the home of the richest paying fishing tournament in the world, the Bisbee. Along with blue marlin, black marlin and striped marlin are also routinely caught.



Eastern Yucatan

Playa del Carmen fishing charter boats routinely catch both blue and white marlin. While the area has its share of resident blue marlin and white marlin, it's the annual migration which really gets things jumping.[citation needed] From late March through July the waters of the Gulf Stream bring decent numbers of marlin through the area. These blue marlin of the western Caribbean tend to be smaller. While large specimens can top 500 lbs, 250-350 are far more common.




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